Been thinking about one of the drills that most volleyball coaches and players, with a little bit of experience, known around the world – “Butterfly” More to the point I guess I have been reflecting on how the motor learning principles of increasing contacts per hour and gamelike training – not to mention extrinsic and intrinsic feedback/feedforward.

Caterpillar Stage

1970s -- No ball in motion for learning --- Sat in circles, static stretching. Run in circles, around the court and doing “footwork” for the caterpillar has so many legs, you need to train how to get them all to work in unison I guess…

Cocoon Stage

1980s -- A BALL started to get used! - 1 ball in a big circle drill COACH controlled. The players as planets circle around the sun of the coach – and the coach gets 10-12 times the number of contacts as a single player. Whenever the coach needs to actually teach/instruct, the drill comes to a stop – or they just use words, no modeling or one on one direct attention. The “better” coaches have learned to keep their eyes on the passer, while beginners actually look away for each ball being handed to them, or even reload themselves out of the ball basket. It is progress though, as the ball is coming OVER the net, like the game, FINALLY. Remember in pair passing, no over the net ball reading/learning that is essential to being able to receive a ball, is happening…so changes are occurring in the cocoon at least…scoring finally started with “how many in a row” can we reach.

Butterfly Stage

1990s -- OMG TWO BALLS in the air! … I love how you can now go just about to any clinic site in the USA and say “Butterfly drill now!” and while groups might have to teach some of the members of the flow of movement for both the balls and the players, they do it without a coach having to explain it. So now twice as much learning, 100 percent more, is being seen as two balls/groups are in action….and the players became empowered by their overhead passing/serving, not the coaches. Mind you, this was not done as a option to warm up however, it was done mid practice as a passing drill. This really is not a good mid-practice drill, but it IS a great WARM UP to start practices, as you can run, even ask for footwork movements, and by getting the players to first toss, then actually roll shot/serve a ball, depending on how far back they are, you get arm warm up too and reading balls coming OVER the net…Remember that your feedback is a vital part of player development – and since you are out of the grill now, you can better observe both groups pre-contact actions – that make the difference to the contact moment that most coaches judge “good/bad” technique. You might event still be involved in teaching the players how to be better “assistant” coaches in randomizing and helping you give better feedback, and even being part of the grill at times for focused feedback and role modeling. There are two player flow options – one large group moving thru- such that scoring options would include whole team in a row maximums, or two groups of 5-6 – where the in a row scoring can be competitive between the two groups.

Avatar - Evolution Options Beyond

What always intrigues me is that when I ask a clinic coaches to now get even more balls moving/smaller groups, they cannot figure that out. It is the main grill in the Minivolley (PDF) book, as it really is how to drill down to the essence of serve reception learning. One server, one passer covering half the court by reading, and one player as target at the setter slot (off the net 5 feet, NOT stuck at/on the net). You do it for minivolley teams of three and when you have 12 players, you do the same, four groups of three, all using the net. Now you have most your scoring options open, timed, in-a-row, server vs. passers, etc.Also it is important to note that your feedback/teaching skills are even more used, with a much less likelihood of overloading an individual player with feedback, Remember you want to give players about 5 trials before giving them more feedback, so as to not overload them with information. While “cue” words/shortened phrases can help a coach not overload, small group training allows the coach to be quite busy giving feedback, going from group to group, without the too oft seen problem of staying stuck on a single player and giving him/her too much information. You watch, perhaps (not always) give feedforward, and move on, knowing that the most important feedback is intrinsic, so your goal is to give them information to teach themselves while you are over working with other players.Remember, as reading is so important, you want to limit or eliminate players sending balls over the net in non gamelike ways, but to have the players sending them over with overhead passes, rolls shots, standing spikes, even forearm passes, so the receivers get to READ REALITY, not coach throws, bounced balls, or things on the other side of the net that do not teach the reading they so importantly need. Remember the great warm up game of “Tennis” that the national teams of both genders enjoy – as they attempt to beat fellow Olympians with a below the net passing skills (both overhead and forearm), a big challenge for those who can read well. At the same time, “Tennis” is very gamelike for lower level play where the ball so often comes over on the first or second hit, and while you, with your experience can read it in plenty of time, the less experienced/younger players have no read of what is about to happen, and get beaten.Three balls – Concentration Passing -- Three groups of four players. You get three players to become distractors, so each group has a server, passer, setter target and “distractor.” The distractor can do anything to the server receiver they are paired with they want, in preferably gamelike ways but silly works too – the only rules are, they cannot touch the ball, nor the serve receiver. When I first started doing this I called the game “Distraction Passing” but you don’t want to make the mistake I did – you want to focus on what you want out the of the drill – concentration – as the player serve receiving knows they can’t be touched or the ball flight can’t change.Four Balls – see the MiniVolley (PDF) book, page 20 for how to get four groups of three on the court training over the net, no problem. Each group is comprised of a server (serving from endline for older/better players or nearer the net/on the sideline for low experienced/young players), serve receiver (covering ½ the court – front and back, but not the other half court which is the serving target/reception training area of the other group on that side of the court), and setter/target (near the net, but not ON the net and either middle, or right side of the court – and one or both of the setter/targets can set balls off the serve received ball to a parent/coach and even “cover” if you want). Two servers on each side, serving to their half the court/serve receiver on the other side, and the two others on the opposite side serving the other court/direction.Six and even Eight Balls! – using the above three or four ball grills, with the setter targets – or coach/parent target at the spiking target area if you are also including setting - having a ball to then throw to the server before catching/setting the serve received ball.Two other important thoughts methinks…If you see my blog on "STOP Teaching Passing" you see that we also want ALL specific serving practice to include at least ONE serve receiving player on each side of the court. This receiver can pass up to themselves (making the positive error first) or to an imaginary setter/target at the net. You as coach or putting assistants there, can optionally (if you are not on the endlines helping the servers) be that target and then send the balls back to the servers. I spent about half my coaching career, over 20 years, serving, but not having a single person learning to read and serve receive these priceless served balls coming over the net. What an idiot I was. It does not have to be the libero, but can be that player alot of the time. You just GOTTA get at least one player on each side reading and serve receiving these hundreds, even thousands of serves coming over the net, as you must win the serve/serve receive battle to win most matches.Just looking at the “how do you learn to ride a bike” story insights -- no coach needed, no drills done, no summer camp attended, no progressions done – and you will understand my final point in this blog… Ask yourself how fast would kids learn to ride a bike if there were 12 kids, and one bike? You learned to ride by having your own bike and riding it all the time, not by watching someone ride. You learn to drive a car by driving it all the time, not by watching your parents drive for 16 years from birth to license age (though you likely do learn “when” to slam the steering wheel and yell and even curse when driving…). You gotta get more balls in the air and more over the net or otherwise gamelike contacts per hour in your gym. We learn by doing, not watching.So what other "grills" do you do to get more learning accomplished in the same amount of time - ones that use the net as a net, not a wall - and change the angle of the ball, not send it right back to where it came from? You know, gamelike drills....grills!